Building a Healthy Future For Your Kids Starts in the Kitchen!May 17, 2022
We all want our kids to grow up into strong, healthy adults. We want them to be able to prepare meals for themselves. We want them to choose the stuff that’s good for them over the sugary treats.
Unfortunately, the odds are not in our favor. We are all surrounded by so much processed, packaged foods full of sugar, sodium and all kinds of things nobody can even pronounce that convincing kids to choose an apple over a Pop-Tart or a glass of water over a Coke feels dang-near impossible.
If you’ve ever found yourself frustrated at mealtime, resorting to take-out, making more than one meal to appease everyone in the house, wasting food (and money) because your kids won’t touch it, or feeding them chicken nuggets or mac and cheese on repeat, I’ve put together some tips for you to help make feeding your kids good-for-them foods a little easier. Not perfect, but easier.
Weekly menu as planned by our 8 year old
Let them choose the meals! Limit their choices to ones you’ll be happy with. I have found using a meal planning app like Mealime (it’s my favorite) lets you choose a type of meal you want (classic, low-carb, Paleo, etc.) and then you can have your kids scroll through and see what looks good to them. My kids have been taking turns doing this and have come up with a variety of foods I never would have considered adding to our menu, and by letting them choose, they take some ownership in the menu and are much more likely to eat what is in front of them.
Let them help with the cooking. It can be really difficult to find the patience to allow your kids to help prepare a meal, but they aren’t going to learn through osmosis. And if you want to raise a child who is comfortable in the kitchen and less likely to rely on processed food in their adult life, practicing (and failing) is a must! Cooking helps with reading, organizational, time management and math skills. Plus they’ll get to see how much work it takes to make a good meal - and to clean up after. If you’re new to allowing your kids in the kitchen, start with some make-ahead meals like these blueberry overnight oats, these chocolate peanut butter energy bites or spinach sausage egg breakfast muffins. For a whole week of kid-friendly meals and snacks with a shopping list and menu planned for you, click here.
For picky eaters, find the healthy foods they like and make them available as often as possible. If you know broccoli is the one vegetable your picky eater won’t complain about, buy the largest bag you can and serve it often. It’s also important to put healthy foods on display and make them accessible. Keep whole fruits out so everyone in the house can see them. Chop vegetables like cucumbers, bell peppers, carrots and fresh broccoli and keep them in a see-through container in the fridge. Set them out on the counter with some homemade ranch dip (here’s an easy-to-make recipe we tried out on Mother’s Day) to snack on before lunch or dinner. Keep the junk food out of sight - or better yet, out of the house - so it’s out of mind.
To make meals customizable so you don’t feel the need to make more than one, offer options like taco or baked potato bars. This way, kids can take what they want and be happy, and you can encourage them to try a new topping or side dish.
Have conversations about nutrition with your kids. Don’t wait until they have a meltdown over Brussels sprouts touching their plate to talk about it! Start the conversation as you cook together or are out on a walk. Let them know how much you care about them and that you want them to grow up to be strong and healthy. This message is on repeat at our house, and there are small glimpses of it sinking in - like when everyone devours something I deem healthy without question or complaint.When that happens, it’s important to point out they ate everything and didn’t complain. Celebrate those victories!
Show how much you enjoy the foods on your plate. Comment on the smell, textures and flavors as you eat. This helps demonstrate food is meant to be enjoyed and savored and can eventually inspire kids to try something new since they see you enjoying it so much.
Don’t give up. When it all feels too hard to feed everyone a healthy meal and nobody is wanting to eat the zucchini enchiladas you were so sure would be a hit, it’s easy to throw in the towel and tell everyone to pour themselves a bowl of cereal or make themselves a PB&J. And, every now and then, that’s okay! But it’s important that kids at least try the foods in front of them because they may decide they actually do like something they’ve turned their noses up at time and time again. We remind our kids all the time that your taste buds change over time, so it’s important to try foods every time they’re served. It’s taken a lot of time and consistency, but our kids will now eat mushrooms without gagging. I call that a win!
Remember, healthy eating for you and your kids isn’t all or nothing and any kind of change works best by taking small steps. If you’re looking for guidance in preparing nutritious meals and improving your health, we’re here for you! Send us an email or schedule your free 30 minute Healthy Habits Breakthrough Call.